October 5th is World Teacher’s Day, an initiative started back in 1994 by UNESCO to focus on ‘appreciating, assessing, and improving the educators of the world’. I figure it’s an excuse to celebrate the good ones.
A good teacher is a great thing. Most of us when asked can name a couple of really good ones from our youth that stand out in our memory as truly making a difference. But what is it about them that makes them that Mr X or Ms Y from our childhood memories – the no questions asked answer to ‘what’s your favourite teacher?’ password prompts?
I am sure there a vast tomes about the subject but I would venture that a key thing is that they have a high expectation of their students, and get alongside them to work in partnership to reach the goals they feel they are capable of. When I look back at the teachers I recall as ‘goodies’ and the ones my three children would give the same title – all of them had a certain professionalism about them that set them apart. They weren’t scary. Well, maybe just a little bit, particularly at the start. Their expectations were not fluffy or hard to fathom (perhaps that was the scary thing initially), but they also provided a road map with the tools and enthusiasm to get there.
Many of them could also be deemed as having some facet of their teaching practise or their personal traits / out of school life that might be deemed a little different or quirky. They were interesting people and I think that in turn meant they valued free thinking in their charges.
I think a good teacher really knows their stuff too and can enthuse a child with their knowledge of a subject, and importantly, at their age. My son’s passion for history was I’m sure fired up by two key teachers. The first one in year 5 bought stories to life in a way a 9 year old could imagine the situation as if he was there. He also drew great pictures to go with the oratory…and he just loved history. The other history teacher in year 11 was just as inspiring – sparking frank, critical thinking discussions around world events. Your opinion was sought. History was not just a set of facts to learn and regurgitate in an exam – they’re scenarios that have complex influences, motivations and moving parts to explore. Next year when he starts a history major at University, I know for a fact these two teachers will have been instrumental in him choosing that path.
Our oldest can also name a couple of art teachers that enthused her and in turn made her feel she could ‘be arty’. And arty she is – she’s just finishing a Bachelor of Communication Design. She had an amazing Year 2 teacher whose class was a work of art in itself. She was a positive and at times slightly ‘different’ teacher who would have them on. I looked back on an old video of her, while sifting through them for our daughter’s 21st and the genuine hug they had at year end was that – a show of genuine affection and respect for one another.
When asked about their favs, my children said they gave good feedback too, (good as in thorough – it may not always be ‘good’). They might have had a bit of banter too – it was a robust and respectful relationship. They also knew they had their back deep down – they felt they actually cared about them as a person and wanted them to do well, and in turn they cared for the teacher too and worked hard to provide results they could both be proud of.
So all in all, it’s a big job description to be a good teacher. We’ve got some good ones out there in NZ, and when your child has one, let them know they are ‘one of those’ great teachers. It’ll make their day.